January, 2021: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Felistus Shimwati
This post is part of a new series by The Water Project meant to highlight the perspectives and experiences of the people we serve and how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting them. We invite you to read more of their stories here.
Our team recently visited Mukhangu to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point, Okumu Spring. Shortly after, we returned to check in on the community, offer a COVID-19 refresher training, and ask how the pandemic is affecting their lives.
It was during this most recent visit that Felistus Shimwati, a farmer and the caretaker of Okumu Spring, shared her story of how the coronavirus is impacting her life and her community.
Felistus Shimwati outside her home
Field Officer Georgina Kamau met Felistus outside her home to conduct the interview. Both Georgina and Felistus observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Felistus's story, in her own words.
What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water project?
"The water is clean and readily available. I am sure that my kids are safe when I send them to the spring. Also, diseases like coughs and diarrhea are not as constant as before the project implementation."
How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?
"I don't use any water treatment since the project was implemented. This helps me save money to buy other goods for my family, especially now that the economy is very bad."
Felistus fetches water while community members observe physical distancing at the spring.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kenya, has fetching water changed for you because of restrictions, new rules, or your concerns about the virus?
"Yes, it has, in that I no longer go to the spring as often as before; since the kids are at home, I get to send them to fetch water while I concentrate on other things in the homestead."
Giving a drink of spring water to her cow that had just given birth
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
"Food is more expensive now, and the fact that the family is mostly in the house, they consume more basic needs than when they used to attend school. So, the budget has increased for us."
Felistus with her son outside their home
What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
"I lost my aunt who lives in Nairobi from the virus and I couldn't travel to attend the burial due to the fear of contacting the virus and infecting my whole family."
Felistus wearing her mask
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community taken to stop the spread of the virus?
"We have handwashing stations in almost every household and we ensure that we wear masks when leaving the house. Social distancing is observed during social gatherings."
Handwashing using soap and water from the spring
What restriction are you looking forward to being lifted?
"Our county is still considered a hotspot for the virus. We hope that when things cool down, all our children will go back to school."
What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?
"We were thankful to learn how to properly wash hands and how to construct the handwashing station using locally available materials."
May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Mukhangu Community, Okumu Spring
Our teams are working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Join us in our fight against the virus while maintaining access to clean, reliable water.
Trainer Christine Masinde hands out informational pamphlets on COVID-19
We are carrying out awareness and prevention trainings on the virus in every community we serve. Very often, our teams are the first (and only) to bring news and information of the virus to rural communities like Mukhangu, Kenya.
We trained more than 15 people on the symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention of COVID-19. Due to public gathering concerns, we worked with trusted community leaders to gather a select group of community members who would then relay the information learned to the rest of their family and friends.
We covered essential hygiene lessons:
- Demonstrations on how to build a simple handwashing station
- Proper handwashing technique
- The importance of using soap and clean water for handwashing
- Cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces including at the water point.
We covered COVID-19-specific guidance in line with national and international standards:
- Information on the symptoms and transmission routes of COVID-19
- What social distancing is and how to practice it
- How to cough into an elbow
- Alternative ways to greet people without handshakes, fist bumps, etc.
- How to make and properly wear a facemask.
Following along with handwashing demonstration
During training, we installed a new handwashing station with soap near the community’s water point, along with a sign with reminders of what we covered.
Due to the rampant spread of misinformation about COVID-19, we also dedicated time to a question and answer session to help debunk rumors about the disease and provide extra information where needed.
Prevention reminders chart installed at the spring
We continue to stay in touch with this community as the pandemic progresses. We want to ensure their water point remains functional and their community stays informed about the virus.
Water access, sanitation, and hygiene are at the crux of disease prevention. You can directly support our work on the frontlines of COVID-19 prevention in all of the communities we serve while maintaining their access to safe, clean, and reliable water.
October, 2019: Giving Update: Mukhangu Community, Okumu Spring
A year ago, your generous donation helped Mukhangu Community in Kenya access clean water.
There’s an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water at Okumu Spring in Mukhangu. Month after month, their giving supports ongoing sustainability programs that help this community maintain access to safe, reliable water. Read more…
September, 2018: Mukhangu Community Project Complete
Mukhangu Community is celebrating their new protected spring, so celebrate with them! Okumu Spring has been transformed into a flowing source of water thanks to your donation. The spring is protected from contamination, five sanitation platforms have been provided for the community, and training has been done on sanitation and hygiene.
Hygiene and sanitation training was organized by the village elder. He moved from one door to the next to inform his community about the plans. Training ended up drawing 13 participants out of whom 4 were male and 9 were female. The session began later because most participants were busy on their farms harvesting maize. But once they made it to the venue site, they were more than eager to hear the training content.
A man helps the trainer by pinning up pictures of good and bad hygiene practices.
This was a unique group, with many of the participants really embracing change. They participated so openly and explained how they do their daily chores. The majority confessed that they didn't know anything about what we were teaching.
We covered several topics including leadership and governance (participants started a water and sanitation committee); operation and maintenance of the spring; healthcare; family planning; immunizations; the spread of disease and prevention. We also covered water treatment methods, personal care like handwashing, environmental hygiene, hygiene promotion, and many other things.
Everyone was eager to try out the handwashing process they learned.
Participants got excited each time we demonstrated a practice, such as handwashing. Everyone wanted to get up and take part in these so that they could get practice and direct feedback from the trainer. They also enjoyed the sessions on community development and leadership. They want to see their community not only come together to safeguard Okumu Spring but to tackle other development activities as well. Each member of the newly formed committee promised to recruit more members that share this vision.
"The information received during training is going to really improve the health status of many people. Most of the information shared was new and transformative," said Mrs. Doreen Okumu.
"I am glad that my life and the lives of my children are going to improve."
All five sanitation platforms have been installed and make wonderful, easy to clean latrine floors. These five families are happy about this milestone of having a private latrine of their own and are optimistic that people will no longer leave waste outdoors. We are continuing to encourage families to finish building walls and roofs over their new latrine floors.
Community members provided all locally available construction materials, e.g bricks, wheelbarrows of clean sand, wheelbarrows of ballast, fencing poles and gravel. Accommodations and meals were provided for the artisan, too.
The spring area was excavated to create space for setting the foundation of polyethylene, wire mesh and concrete. After the base had been set, both wing walls and the headwall were set in place using brickwork. The discharge pipe was fixed low in place through the headwall to direct the water from the reservoir to the drawing area.
As the wing walls and headwall cured, the stairs were set and ceramic tiles were fixed directly below the discharge pipe. This protects the concrete from the erosive force of the falling water and beautifies the spring. The process of plastering the headwall and wing walls on both sides reinforces the brickwork and prevents water from the reservoir from seeping through the walls and allows pressure to build in the collection box to push water up through the discharge pipe.
The source area was filled up with clean stones and sand and covered with a polyethylene membrane to eliminate any potential sources of contamination. The concrete dried over the course of two weeks The water and sanitation committee has already worked with the community to plant grass and build a fence to protect the spring.
Fridah married Mr. Okumu in the late sixties and has been fetching water from Okumu Spring ever since. She admitted that she has been drinking contaminated water ever since she joined this community. During her stay here, she witnessed many cases of waterborne diseases as a result of drinking dirty water.
She told us that at one point she had to stop drinking water completely and only drink hot tea whenever she was thirsty. She counts herself lucky to be among those who are now able to access safe and clean water.
She could not hide her joy and she witnessed the water flowing from the discharge pipe. Fridah is just one among many community members who now have access to clean and safe water from Okumu Spring!
August, 2018: Mukhangu Community Project Underway
Dirty water from Okumu Spring is making people in Mukhangu Community sick. Thanks to your generosity, we have begun installing a clean water point - and much more!
Get to know your community through the narrative and pictures we’ve posted, and read about this water, sanitation and hygiene project. We look forward to reaching out with more good news soon.